An Introduction to Full Frontal
I’m hardcore into the US satire scene. The first thing I do at the beginning of every new week is catch up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which airs Sunday nights on HBO. My daily morning ritual includes coffee, half-hearted yoga, shopping lists of things I keep forgetting to buy and YouTube clips of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, immediately followed by Seth Meyers and then – depending on how late I’m running – The Daily Show in its entirety. On whimsical days I’ll pop a couple of Cordens, Conans, Fallons or Kimmels – particularly on weeks when Jimmy Kimmel has decided to take on The Man. On Fridays Real Time with Bill Maher gets added into the rotation.
Sundays and special occasions are obviously Saturday Night Live. (In the upcoming weeks I invite you all to join me in reliving the best of their Thanksgiving and Christmas sketches.) I watch documentaries and read books about the behind the scenes action on these shows. If I could have dinner with anyone alive or dead it would be Saturday Night Live’s Chris Farley. You get the idea.
So you can imagine how excited I was in February of last year when TBS went all niche and hired America’s only female late-night host. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is a hard left-leaning news satire extravaganza that airs Wednesdays (10.30pm Eastern Time) and is hosted by former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee. Thirty minutes long, it features no desk or guests but rather field pieces and standing monologues. Emmy Award-winning for its writing, its first season achieved a rare 100% approval rating from the American review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.
Appropriately for the “most mercilessly feminist show” ever, its opening theme is “Boys Wanna Be Her” by angry feminist hoodlum Peaches and – despite being the new kid on the block – Full Frontal is as proactive socially and politically as it is vocal.
A portion of the proceeds from all merchandise sold benefits a handful of organisations including the Karam Foundation which provides aid to Syria, Distributing Dignity which delivers new bras, pads and tampons to women in need and Hispanic Federation which awards grants to Latino agencies and supports vulnerable members of the Hispanic community.
When Donald Trump made his infamous “nasty woman” slur, the show started promoting and selling Nasty Woman t-shirts, raising over one million dollars for Planned Parenthood and its “Not the WHCD” event raised $200,000 for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
So who is this elusive, confidence-inspiring creature who made TBS think they could hire a late-night lady host and she wouldn’t period all over their ratings?
Canadian born Samantha Bee began her career acting and doing sketch comedy. She was one of the founding members of an all-woman sketch comedy troupe called The Atomic Fireballs which also featured Allana Harkin, now a producer on Full Frontal. In 2003 Bee joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and became their longest tenured correspondent. A quintessential New Yorker, this badass, foul-mouthed, blazer-wearing working mother has three children with fellow Daily Show alumnus Jason Jones. The two joked that they only started having babies so that they could use them as props on The Daily Show (which they did in fact end up doing).
One of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2017, Bee is brutally conscientious in her commitment to doing and saying what’s right. In the early days of Full Frontal she set up a blind process for hiring writers that hid the gender and experience level of applicants – resulting in a 50% female, 30% non-white writing staff. The show additionally hired playwright and journalist Winter Miller to help develop a mentorship program with the aim of diversifying the writing room.
Her defining quality though, is that she gives zero f*cks. She even went so far as to break the golden rule of late-night: die-hard loyalty to fellow hosts. During the 2016 election she called out Jimmy Fallon for tacitly condoning a “race-bating demagogue” by inviting Donald Trump on as a guest, questioning whether he and his network valued ratings more than they valued the people of colour who Trump was making life palpably dangerous for.
Source: Entertainment Tonight
So if you’re new to the show and are in the mood for comedy with a side of social subversion, here are the highlights so far:
“Who are these refugees and why do they hate America so much that they’re willing to be bombed into homelessness just to freak us out?”
Sam Bee takes a look at US hysteria surrounding Syrian refugees, breaks down the screening process and visits a camp in Jordan.
“The sudden death of Antonin Scalia has left a hole, not just on the Supreme Court softball team but at the court itself which will now have to dive up your uterus without him.”
In the spring of last year the US Supreme Court was set to consider striking down a law passed in Texas that had forced all but 10 of the state’s abortion clinics to close. Bee sits down with figures on both sides of the debate to talk abortion access.
“If you don’t like how Hillary Clinton seems like a fake politician robot, here’s how that happened.”
A must-watch revisiting of Clinton’s beginnings as an activist and feminist, that gives context to her current public persona.
“President Trump will inherit the most powerful surveillance machine ever built.”
‘Tis the season for unbridled terror. Full Frontal writer and correspondent Ashley Nicole Black does a field piece on government surveillance.
“My biggest worry is a nuclear holocaust.”
“Florida: where retirees and democracy go to die.”
“What was the secret of Ivanka’s success? We had no idea…”
A laugh-out-loud book review of Ivanka Trump’s Women Who Work.
“What does he mean when he says words?”
In the wake of Ivanka Trump dropping this gem in an interview: “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good… then I’m complicit”, Full Frontal examines the evolving role of words in a post-Trump dystopia.
“The thrilling discovery that Nixon’s presidency was cut short after a mere sixty-seven months in office may be making liberals a bit too giddy.”
A personal favourite. Mike Rubens and Ashley Nicole Black hit the street of Los Angeles to roll their eyes at liberals who have their hearts set on impeachment.
“Coverage of the war on Isis has been kind of a sausage fest.”
Written by Sabrina Ceol.
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